At 5-7, Johnny Panvica is used to getting overlooked. The speedy Bloomington Jefferson center was overlooked in the Elite League draft before his junior high school season, a slight that still lingers.
“I’ve had my share of disappointments in hockey,” Panvica said. “I ended up playing in Elite League anyway, but that was a big disappointment.”
Instead of sulking, Panvica used the experience as motivation. He scored 17 goals and 36 points for Jefferson in his junior season and helped Team Southwest to the Elite League playoff championship. He led the team in scoring with 10 goals and 23 points.
Staff writer Jim Paulsen talked with Panvica about his role for the Jaguars, sticking around for his senior year and his favorite place in the world.
Q: Give me a scouting report on yourself.
A: I’m a playmaker. I’ve always been a pretty skilled guy. I’m a pretty natural goal-scorer, too, so I can beat you one-on-one or set up a play, usually because of my speed.
Q: What are your expectations for the upcoming season?
A: We have a lot of new guys stepping in, but we have a really good core of returning players. I’m looking forward to getting it going.
Q: As a leader on the team, what are you doing to help the younger players improve?
A: If I see guys with inexperience make a play they shouldn’t, I’ll say something like “This isn’t that big of a problem, but next time, try this instead.”
Q: Do they listen?
A: I’m a captain, so I get some respect because of that, but I think you have to earn it. I do think they stop and listen when I have something to say. I know that I have to set a good example for them. If I start slacking off, they will, too.
Q: What do you see in your hockey future?
A: I was drafted by Cedar Rapids of the USHL. I went down there for their orientation camp and I played really well. I made the all-star game and played in that. I’m probably going to play a few games for them after the high school season ends.
Q: Did you ever think about skipping your senior year?
A: I thought about it, but I didn’t want to miss my senior year. If I did, I thought I’d probably look back and regret it.
Q: And what’s better than a packed house for a big game at the Bloomington Ice Gardens?
A: You’re right. Just you mentioning that sent chills down my back. I remember last year, in our first section playoff game against Holy Angels, the whole place was just packed. Both student sections came and they were chanting back and forth. It was crazy.
Q: What is your favorite thing about hockey?
A: Skating on our outdoor rink. My dad has built a rink in our back yard every year since I was about 8 years old. It’s about 40-by-70, so it’s pretty good size. Some nights after practice, I’ll come right home and put on my outdoor skates and some gloves that aren’t wet and just go outside and skate. I love it.
Q: How many pucks have you lost in snowbanks over the years?
A: About a couple hundred. Sometimes my neighbors find them in the spring and bring them back and say “I think this belongs to you.”